Miketz by David Hartley Mark

An Egyptian Night, approx. 1895 BCE, during the reign of Pharaoh Senusret II. The tent of Joseph’s brothers. Reuben and Judah sit at the head of a tribal council. The other brothers, all except Shimon, who remains a hostage in Joseph’s jail, are assembled in a half-circle.

Reuben: It is all happening as I said it would: because you fools could not keep yourselves from killing Joseph, we are all suffering the consequences. I myself had to return home to care for Papa, and could not leave you alone and leaderless. Jealous wretches! How could you?

Judah: Do not vaunt yourself over us, Brother. We all know of your pretensions to Power. That business with Father’s concubine, Bilhah—did you think you could take the tribal leadership from him so easily?

Dan (drawing a dagger, and coming forward): Yes, Reuben, defend that action! My brother Naphtali and I are ready to fight you for our loving Mother’s honor, at a time and place of your choosing. Or, it could come—the knife could slip into your back—at any time, or place, dear half-brother. You, you mother-violator! (All the Brothers murmur angrily)

Reuben (retreating to a corner of the tent): Peace, Brothers, Peace! Can you not see, this is the plan of that Egyptian Sorcerer, that kohl-eyed grain merchant, to sow dissension amongst us, and make it impossible for us to unite against him? I—I—(he stops, stammering helplessly)

Judah (rising, coolly): Perhaps this is where a better speaker than the Eldest Brother might take over, Reuben. Step down.

Reuben (sweating, nervous, looking about wildly, and seeing no one supporting his leadership): I—I protest! I—

Judah (eyes narrowing, in a menacing whisper heard by all): Step Down!

(Reuben does so, shamefaced, hanging his head, and slumping to his knees)

Judah (continuing, more cheerfully): Now, Brethren all, little birdies in their nests agree—who will have me as Leader? (Hands go up) Let me count—yes, yes, that’s a fairly solid majority. Good. Any objections? (Levi raises his hand.) Brother Levi?

Levi: I am older than you, by a year, and have already proven my mettle, along with Brother Shimon.

Judah: Proven it, you mean, by killing helpless Shechemites recovering from their own, self-induced, deluded Brit Milah, Covenant of Circumcision, and then abducting Sister Dinah from Prince Shechem’s harem? You call this warriorhood? Leadership? What say you, Brothers All?

(The Brothers mutter dissent.)

Judah: So that’s done. Sit down, Levi. Your part’s already been played out.

Levi: I—

Judah: Sit. Down. Now!

(Levi reluctantly sits.)

Judah (continuing): Now, Brothers, this Egyptian Necromancer requires a firm hand. We are Hebrew Shepherds; let us make a sheep out of him. We are many; he is but One; a wise and clever man, but we have the wisdom and cunning of our father Jacob, and the assistance of El-Shaddai to guide us through. We have enough grain to get us home, and can certainly come up with a means of bamboozling this man into giving us more, when this is gone. We must protect our Dear Little Benjy-Boy with all of our might. He is, as you know the Apple of Papa’s eye. (The Brothers collectively groan) Oh, enough of that; deal with it. Hm. (Looking about.)
Where is Zebulun? I sent him to the Pharaoh’s Palace, to see if the Grain-Master had changed his mind….

Asher: About what?

Judah (frowning): About requiring us to bring Benjamin next time ‘round, Camel-brain. It will kill Father, and we don’t yet have a solid Line of Succession—not with Reuben over there thinking his little thoughts of leadership (points to Reuben, sulking in a corner of the tent), and I am certain that Shimon, once he gets out of Egyptian Jail, will have an Opinion about that, too. Let me think. Let. Me. Think.

(Zebulun rushes in, out of breath.)

Zebulun: Judah! That Egyptian Lord is willing to forgo Benjamin’s coming down to Egypt—on one condition.

Judah: Which is–?

Zebulun: That he executes Shimon on Suspicion of Espionage.

Judah: That, we cannot do. Well, Boys, the die is cast. This might kill the Old Man. Close your grain-bags, and saddle up. What to do? What to do?

Gad (examining his grain bag): God of the Wilderness! Great Baal!

Naphtali: What is it, Brother?

Gad: My money—the money I had bought grain with—is all here?!

(The Brothers all cry out, as they make similar discoveries, and then begin to sing and rejoice.)

Reuben: Quiet! Don’t you see, you Fools, that we are now caught by that ugly, evil Vice-Pharoah, in his kohl-eyed Spider’s Web? Now, he has us, for a few pieces of silver, and we will never escape…. Oh, woe, woe—what shall we tell Father? Poor Benjy—poor, poor Benjamin….

David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance

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